Skip to main content

tv   After Words  CSPAN  April 12, 2015 12:00pm-1:01pm EDT

12:00 pm
>> booktv continues now with "after words." cornel west explores martin luther king, jr.'s radical political thinking, a sight of the late civil rights leader that the author argues has been diminished and sanitize. cornel west speaks with khalil mohammed, director of the schomburg center for research in black culture. >> host: dr. west, it is a real delight to have you on this show. i am grateful myself for being invited to have an occasion to interview you about this new edited volume on dr. king "the radical king" martin luther king, jr. edited and introduced
12:01 pm
by cornel west. this is a real treasure of some of the most important features and letters and publish documents of dr. king. what inspired you to do this project? >> guest: i just want to begin by saluting you in a minute you -- mainly that you -- were to do at the schaumburg. you do with such alec and spend such a vision and such sensitivity and your scholarship actually from a expulsion terms of this discourse i'm hyper incarceration among poor people is chocolate, is crucial. such a thing to spend this time with you my brother, is a pitiful thing. will think about martin king we're thing about the same tradition to produce you, that produced me. is one of the great moments in the tradition of a grand people who in the face of terror and instead was able to generate levels of love and vision an unbelievable high quality service to the least of these. he is a christian minister first and foremost and it is his
12:02 pm
calling. what i thought is important you and i know brother martin gets sanitized and sterilized every january. >> host: what do you mean by that? >> guest: and dignity of scum ever has a smile on their face and dicing he's the most dangerous man in america. and other black leaders are saying trying to organize poor people and critique vietnam before it was such power. is now betraying the movement, he is un-american. is a traitor to the country and so forth. so what does martin dick what he says he never knew me. you never knew me. i am called to love babies in vietnam, babies in appalachia, babies on the southside of chicago, in harlem, in ethiopia. i'm a christian minister and for me justice is what love looks like in public just like what love feels like a private. that's martin king.
12:03 pm
but there's no martin without ella baker, without stokely carmichael, without to many of the freedom, so on and so on. >> host: talk about the santa claus education with respect to african-americans. i think part of what you're describing is a kind of historical amnesia for the fact that dr. king was not always well loved within the black community. you cite a remarkable poll from late in his life that says that 55% about can americans do not support dr. king on vietnam and popular i think it was the poverty for the comic opera guard. >> it's true. it's very sent. the of 72% of americans across the board all colored and 55% of black people disapprove of martin. whitney young said, you're sitting back the black freedom movement. martin said what you say it
12:04 pm
will not teach too difficult in the kingdom of truth. interest trouble against come within black leadership over where to go. martin was saying corporations are going to dictate what my conscious action is. >> host: i know the difference between right and wrong. >> guest: absolutely. big money and all the thrills and assets of power is not going to determine what i say. martin was like john coltrane. he could could've been doing my favorite thing for the rest of his career, been a multi-multimillionaire. young brothers we're going to go free just. what is coltrane doing? being true to himself. this to me the real standard of what we need in this present moment. we've got a lot of black people for example, who say they love martin luther king, jr. and i talk about "speaking truth to power" but they don't want to speak truth to the present
12:05 pm
power. see what i mean? they want to be in accommodation but that's not brother martin. there's nothing wrong with being accommodationist if you're honest about and acknowledge what our limitations of but don't lie to yourself and act as if you're so progressive and prophetic when you really are just a cheerleader and a bootlicker. i mean you've got to be honest and candid about these things. >> host: we are going to get to that crucial but if you want to ask you more about the book itself. so first of all you've defined the radical king, but in terms of the text itself, was the radical king hidden in plain sight in terms of the actual textual record of his word and his wisdom? or did you have to pull out after passengers and texts are more well known speeches dedicate? i'm curious as to the compilation itself guesstimate when my dear sister coretta scott king to me legendary,
12:06 pm
this level of dignity and grace that is beyond description, when i matter in 1986 i gave a speech at u.s. capitol when they brought in the statute of brother martin and others, 1986 before the king holiday. this is tenures into the annual fight, fbi was informed members of congress that he was -- the most dangerous negro, that's exactly right. she said to me on my first date martin said, i bet you never met a black socialist, have you? she said no. musical conservatory music. he said yes. because his hero was, and i just want to share this, the great
12:07 pm
sociologist, professor indian university. but also norman thomas. and, of course the essay in the book, the bravest men i from the. who was norman thomas? phi beta kappa from princeton class 1905. union seminary 1911. turned down the big church on the side of new york. lost his christian faith, became a socialist ran on the socialist party for many, many times. but, of course spoke at the march on washington. minello brother in history of john brown myles horton. we can go on and on. brothers and sisters fundamentally committed to the freedom of everybody including black people. martin says, nor ms. thomas is a fundamental part of who i am. is not as much as benjamin will base was. he is legendary, iconic for good reason but he's a part of who i
12:08 pm
am. >> host: and i share a story that you -- you allude to the story but i found it fascinating. in 1952 dr. king and karen are dating. not get married and decided a passage from this letter at the top of the book but my sources gave me a little more detail. the passage here indicates an exchange of ideas and romance between dr. king and karen at the time. was interesting they talked about having both red edward bellamy's 1887 utopian social -- looking backwards. for some reason i forgot that the full name but in this letter he writes and i'm going to read what he said. he said i'm not a conventional baptist minister. i believe in the social gospel. it's not enough to say seoul. we need to change society so the sole will have a chance. my father was a capitalist but i
12:09 pm
don't want to own a lot and ignoring people's needs is wrong. i'm much more socialistic and my economic theory than capitalistic. capitalism has outlived its usefulness. it takes the necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. i find that sitting because that's 1952. >> guest: that's our brother laying it out already. when he goes back to jim crow south, he has this legacy inside of them. what i love about martinsville and in some ways sets them apart from most black people, the most black leaders amount was a part of it, stokely is, too radical of. it's a radical love and the radical freedom, radical freedom in a radical love which means from the very beginning he is leading a rather know i'm a different kind of the negro. this is benjamin davis in harlem.
12:10 pm
it was not -- >> host: a. philip randolph. >> guest: that's right. but at the same time when it comes to mainstream black education public and to mainstream black leadership being explicitly social like that is not the best way to win the black masses. martin is letting her know. she's right there with them. she's going to be pushing him on pacifism, pushing him on critiques of empire. >> host: this also comes back to the bigger art in which you make and what i see as your chance to make an intervention, shall we say a radical invention. annually in the run up to the king holiday we get a lot of the riverside speech, a lot of antiwar speechmaking upon dr. king, a dr. king made but it denies the truth of his own story which is not that he began
12:11 pm
swept up in history that took him like a tidal wave into montgomery bus boycott. he fell on the other end with rustin by side and give him counsel on how to fight the good fight and that it was just about civil rights and was just about a seat at the table and just by being able to be first class citizens but in fact he already came with the kind of economic blueprint built-in. by the time you get to the vietnam war, by the time he seen the limits of legislative action and the sub rights movement he's already been committed to fundamental revolutionary change. the kind of change that as you estimate others have pointed out ships this country from an oriented society to a people oriented society. >> guest: you are at the be right. when we talk to our dear rather harry belafonte, one of the great freedom fighter still alive who meets martin very
12:12 pm
young. you see that wonderful picture of them in the basement the first time they meet rich dialogue, harlem at the center, but belafonte brings the legacy of the boys and martin king bring the legacy of benjamin mays on the one hand but also intellectually curious young negro genius or atlanta. of course, offer dana, his brother. it's a family affair. it's a family affair. there's no martin without his family. just like there's no martin without the movement. family helps making and that's very important. i think especially for young people and they think especially of the ferguson generation who i love so deeply, i think they are courageous. >> host: philip agnew. >> guest: philip agnew is a giant in so many ways, but also brother tory and william -- the
12:13 pm
great kinglike figure of our time. all of these folk who gain deep inspiration as well as analytical elimination for martin king. with the recognize as part of a tradition and isolating individuals on a pedestal, no that the recognize just like you untie we are who we are because somebody loved us. somebody cared for us. the question is how much loving and caring will what we do in the short time we hear from mamas womb to tomb? that's what martin understood. he got a whole lot in his 39 years with early on he's bringing his critique of capitalism, not a trashing of moneymaking or ugly rejection of markets it was a very subtle analysis that puts poor people and working people at the center. so it's not dogmatic. anywhere been he can get and
12:14 pm
use, it could be marxism feminist later, it might be from liberalism in terms of critique, it might be even conservatism. doesn't have to be patriarchal family by family is still important. church. doesn't have to be patriarchal church these days, you know. >> host: one of the things you emphasize is that you call him a revolutionary christian anti-christian bluesman. i think it's obvious that he's a minister to us all, reverend dr. martin luther king but in some ways his actions it lost in his space for. it seems to me part of what you would say here is that his spacewalk was critical to his radicalism. talk to us about that. >> guest: one is because the brother would never sell out. you only sell out when you're expensing spiritual blackout period you're only willing to
12:15 pm
sign yourself when you reach a conclusion that the crowns of you hope to the longer can be sustained at a spiritual level and, therefore, life is only but the goodies available in time and space and i'm going to get as many as again i can or as much status as again. so the kingdom of god has become a brand. no. the black freedom struggle has become a commercial. no. the beloved community has become an advertisement. no. we live in a highly market driven culture cash rules everything but it doesn't have to prove -- doesn't have to rule me. lo and behold, i'm a jazz band and blues man, i'm in proposition, flexible, fluid using any weapon akin to about these poor and working people beginning on that side of them. with a lot of people love martin king because he loved white brothers and sisters. that's a beautiful thing. that shows the spiritual maturity but he didn't go to
12:16 pm
jail because he loved white brothers and sisters. he went to joe because he loved black folks. he's in the patty wagon for a half hours in the dark with a german shepherd on his way to prison and when he gets out he could hardly walk and all he could say is this is the cross we must bear for the freedom of our people. that's spiritual. that's deep. you know this brother ain't never going to sell a. >> host: it's a deep connection to life that jesus lead right? we can say least of these but he meant it. so his diagnosis of the world was that these people my people are truly the least of these not just here in america but globally. >> guest: i'm glad you mentioned jesus because martin was such a jesus loving free black man the way malcolm was an allah loving free black man.
12:17 pm
the way toni morrison is a free black woman rooted in her own particular brand of catholicism and literary genius that she manifest. there's a connection between having your spiritual rich rich and deep and being free being in the world but not of the world. and for martin it had everything to do with the palestinian named jesus, like myself. >> host: let's come back to the connection between christianity and the blues tradition. that may not be obvious to every reader or every listener. what do you mean a christian bluesman? to talk about improvisation but i think you mean something more than improvisation. to talk about catastrophe. you named for catastrophes that martin luther king anticipated and recognize. how does the blues help one get with catastrophe? >> guest: would have to begin with ralph waldo emerson who said the blues is a personal
12:18 pm
chronicle of an individual catastrophe lyrically expressed, lyrically expressed. so b.b. king said nobody loves me but my mama. she might be gyrating, too. that's a catastrophe. every force in the world and the cause will against you pick the one person you thought you could depend on. how did b.b. king sing that song? that's the b. side of thriller. how did he sing that song? style, smile a little help from lucille but in lucille is muddy waters the whole tradition is there in his playing and in his voice, meaning the black people, we are blues people. we've got the world something about love even though we've been hated and despised like
12:19 pm
approaches. without the world something that just as even though we been treated so unjustly and unfairly up until this for a moment. the blues tradition is a tradition of the people who look catastrophe in the face lyrically come expresses it critically examines it candidly speaks about it, courageously lives and is willing to die for that love. the love the islip brothers sang about. curtis naseo people do you ready. that's the love train. when i say the christian bluesman, in the face of american terrorism jim crow. in the face of being hated by so many people. he responds like b.b. king with a smile with style, landmarks in the past that constitute wind at his back to engage, truth telling, witness bearing, living and dying for the people. for the least, for the poor and
12:20 pm
for the working people in the he's not against ritual, he just recognizes that it's very difficult for rich folk not to fall into what we have how did the johnson brothers put it? falling in love with the intoxicated with kind of the bourgeois. i forget. you know the line i talk about. you get intoxicated with the world. power and wealth and so forth rather than telling the truth and the bearing witness. >> host: when you use this term radical of i think is the last definition of broader definition of christian bluesman, but you say that it's the radical love that king thought and that of his life by with the radical love that daily made itself die. that the ego had to be killed which is the ego which is our brand, which is our attachment to the world and the immediacy of the things that make us feel
12:21 pm
good. in order for a sacrificial self to emerge. so this radical love so how did he teach it? wasn't in the sermons? once again how he governs himself? was it is your capacity to be courageous in the midst of chaos? >> guest: that's the profound question because it's hard to know exactly how anybody is able to muster the love of courage, vision and service that a martin king or baker or dorothy day does. dorothy day wrote one of the great eulogies of martin king in the catholic worker when she said he was someone who really did die every day. and there is no rebirth without death so he is reborn every day. by taking a shower, like a baptism, fresh and vital vibrant. >> host: you can't get stuck on holy saturday.
12:22 pm
>> guest: holy saturday, killing got. holy saturday god is dead but there's evidence even to radical love flowing from the blood of the cross that easter is on the way. most christian in america subset with easter, don't want to talk about good friday. don't want to talk about jesus killed as a criminal. like we have political prisoners right now. all of them are bearing witness and the empire comes down on them. martin understood that are not just christians but for any human being wants to reach a level of integrity, honesty and decency as a long distance runner. you've got to kill something in yourself fear. you've got to kill something in yourself. your obsession with position and status and wealth. you've got to kill something in yourself this is the sum of its all about you rather than you being a product of a larger
12:23 pm
tradition of oak loving you care so you affirm and getting a sense of self-confidence and self-respect, and our young people especially the ferguson generation are so hungry and thirsty for this process in learning how to die killing that fear, standing in the face of the police, police look like they're in baghdad rather than in ferguson. they stand there with courage and, of course, the fundamental question always is how do we channel that legitimate righteous indignation through love and justice rather than hatred and -- that's martin's question. post that you spent some time, 20 years ago writing about nihilism amongst young people. >> guest: that's exactly right. >> host: do you find that this journey into king's radicalism helps you better understand young people from 20 years ago where you were writing race
12:24 pm
matters today tragedy i think so. that's why for me this is my most important text out of 20 some books and 13 edited books. because this is more of the core of what him and what i'm all about than any of the text. i'm dedicating get to my blood brother west who was the most christlike, the most coltrane like. the most kinglike person that i know. that is true for so many of us. there's so many folks on the ground who were kinglike. when you look up on television, not too many teams like coltrane like i'm not too many christlike. you look on the ground, these folk out here doing magnificent work in local activists and grassroots again they have. they die and learn how to live. in the new testament christians must die daily. kill the egoism kill the fear kill that in the in order to somehow be liberated enough to
12:25 pm
keep the beloved community in view, the kingdom in view. and that beloved community is fundamentally about ensuring that everybody, but especially poor working people live lives of decency. that's why for example, martin king would be just overwhelmed by 500 palestinian babies killed in 50 days, and not one mumbling word said by an american politician. the white house, congress governors or whatever. and martin would say what? i don't care about the politicians if their cowardly. these precious babies are just as precious babies as the precious babies until the. the precious babies in new york newtown, connecticut, los angeles are whatever. and if he teach that moral and spiritual center that's the key. that's really the key.
12:26 pm
>> host: i want to talk to you about martin's sense of history. i found certainly as a historian, i was taken i some of the entries that really articulate a powerful sense of the importance of history and that dr. king himself not only as a product of that historical consciousness and that deep commitment to learning. after all, he did have a doctor degree as well as -- >> guest: your absolute the right post that but he saw the stakes of the historical literacy, they need to know and to understand and to be able to use history in order to criticize the president and to imagine the future as obsolete essential. not just optional. i want to remind you what you already know but share with our listeners. king after dubois, the civil
12:27 pm
rights activists the eventual communist and expatriate who moves at the end of his life and is essentially pronounced america's incapable of transformation. here, team is giving tribute to doctor devoids, h2b i have not read and he described in the tribute that in dubois own work he had identified the keystone in the arch of oppression or the myth of inferiority. and that history books had to lie or admits the negroes capacity to govern. here he is inspired by dubois 1935 construction which were very well very much would've been part of his educational learning even though yet he was on 10 years old when it was published. he says in his tribute that dubois writes about the death of black people such a consummate its consequences. to lose one's history is to lose one's self understanding and
12:28 pm
with it the root of pride. it's not enough to be angry he said the people must organize and unite. and that when negro history has been distorted american history has been distorted. because negroes, he continued are too big a of the building of the station to be written out of it without destroying scientific history. this is a fascinating not only fascinating tribute but a fascinating challenge to the listeners of his tribute because we know right now that history is under attack all over the country, including, and it is going to cite this as an example, in colorado back in september white, black latino students, asian students took to the streets against the jefferson county colorado school board because the school board decided that they no longer wanted to allow students to be exposed to history, and i'm
12:29 pm
going to quote here that history must promote citizenship patriotism, and the essential benefits of the free market system, must show respect for authority and respect for individual rights. so think about that kind of history you say has been sent a classified think about the fact -- santa claus about. think about taxes literally whitewashed it's a textbook. think about arizona, mexican descended shelley keller mexican-american history in the state of arizona just be a part of mexico because it's considered anti-american. i'm fascinated by dr. king -- he wasn't making history, right? he was studying -- >> guest: and teaching in that way. i'm so glad you make you made it is because for me this is one of the great moment in history of american culture. we have the greatest organic
12:30 pm
intellectual in history of america, that's martin king reflecting on the greatest public intellectual, dubois writer in new york, and it's not that widely known. we have to keep in mind that many of martin's friends told him not to go. why? because dubois was time in his. the last thing you want because people are saying you are kind of this is to go and reflect on this black communist. what does martin do? kiss my so-and-so. i am a free black man. i say what i want. i do wonder what. i will give it to to the great debbie be devoid. i annoy them in part because dubois loved me. he loved the truth. he loved just the. i love trees. i love jessica dubois the christian. he was a post-christian, like the great james baldwin. where he went to church and the church went to but almost had to leave the church or to promote the gospel.
12:31 pm
it is the churches were just too narrow entity, to cowardly, too accommodating to the powers that be, the status quo simply. any sibling of history is something which is a kind history of the present. the past and present are always intertwined and the third dimension of the future always is the object of our vision mediated through our understanding of the past and our actions in, that's a great speech that martin gave. thank god he had the courage to give it. >> host: he closes his speech with the refrain about being dissatisfied. so the arc of the speech itself is to get to dubois what he called divine dissatisfaction. >> guest: that's brother barton on the great dubois. >> host: that's true. then of refrain, let us not be satisfied. his refrain is let us be dissatisfied until every man can have food and freedom and human
12:32 pm
dignity for his spirit. >> guest: you can see how that in and of itself is a message in the age of obama where you have intellectuals who become obama apologists who are no longer dissatisfied enough to acknowledge wall street crimes the obama administration hides and considers. not one wall street executive goes to jail. jamal gets caught on the corner with a crack pipe goes to jail right away. drones, dropping the bombs on the incident took the words the dissatisfaction? >> host: i'm going to pick one fine detail, if this doesn't distract from your larger form but i do think general holder's office prosecuted one man of south asian descent not too long ago. >> guest: what was he a wall street executive directly tied to the operation? i think was kind of a mid-level
12:33 pm
person. but i mean -- i hear you. it's just so sad that we could have a criminal justice system or looking at on the chocolate side of town, the black folks to every 40 hours a black or brown brother or sister shot by a policeman or security guard over a vigilante is deputized to keep the order. every 28 house. black president black attorney general, black homeland security, not one federal prosecution of a policeman. you figured, something just ain't right, brother. with all the marches, hands up, hands up not one critique of the federal government that has the capacity to at least engage in massive investigation but i'm glad they're thinking that this badly as department in ferguson. that's a good thing but the police still going free.
12:34 pm
they are shooting black folks i can don't know what and they are still going free. something is wrong. we've got a black president black attorney general. what are we telling our young people? that you end up with black faces in high places and still have a system that is an abysmal failure in terms of delivering justice to our priceless young folk. that doesn't mean our young folk don't need correction but they need love and respect and protection. >> host: you pointed out, a wonderful passage that you describe a speech taking gives about a blueprint. >> guest: in philadelphia. that's a beautiful moment. right before he dies. >> host:hosting andyou talk about a young people are essentially moving towards the university of integration. but at the same time dr. king, elsewhere in his speeches is talking about integrating into a birmingham. so that tension in the blueprint
12:35 pm
speech because it focuses on so forth, on excellence. as the famous saying where he talks of being a street sweeper and if you're going to be a street sweeper be the street sweeper that the angels in heaven will rejoice over. if you can't be a pine tree on about, be a scrub in the valley. this is the kind of speech that can be decontextualized as a prescription for personal responsibility. >> guest: his quest for excellence. >> host: but that's where he was, that's the context. but i've heard the speech often delivered in the context of dr. king's content of character position. so we are back to the king made for hallmark commercial. and in that team to say that if you can't be a pine tree on the top of mount be a scrub in the valley, it is a way of saying you don't even have to have high
12:36 pm
aspirations. ito you have to have-and if you're going to be a street sweeper, just \street\{-|}street -- sweep the street because we need a lot of street sweeper's. in that we think the lesson from that moment to the present and the absence of a sustained focus on the life king led his we completely divorce his critique of integration as a burning house. so these young people, the blueprint as we understand today is a blueprint for several harvard mbas said and the book he published a years ago, rule number 10 can never talk about race or gender except to say that it does not matter. >> guest: wow. that is something. host a think about success. excellent, harvard mbas made it passing a message to the young people amidst other lessons like the hard-working ambitious and the networking. if you think about that and the
12:37 pm
blueprint that king gave out of context, that's the perfect synergy for the parables and politics of personal responsibility which i would argue are right underneath the infrastructure that upholds the last 50 years of civilization. it's not about racism in america anymore. it's not about a systemic critique. it's about individuals who are making bad decisions. so if you live in ferguson, ipso facto you are suspect and would be criminal because no person of good character, no person walking with we did a live in ferguson in the first place. so when darren wilson says it's a high crime area that doesn't like the police then he's saying that by definition these are not people whose rights or humanities we are bound to respect. >> guest: know, that makes a
12:38 pm
lot of sense. it's another way in which white supremacy is recast and reinvented that ends up criminalizing instead ensuring that humanities let a note for intelligence, their preciousness is not acknowledged. that level of disrespect. of course, that's part of the history of white depends a disrespecting black brown and yellow people. in martin's case when he talks about it he links the personal responsibility to excellence, i think he also recognizes that he knows some street sweeper's who have debts of integrity, honesty and decency that far out measure well-to-do folk who got who are driven by gangster proclivity spiritual blackout, moral constipation. have a sense of what's right but
12:39 pm
nothing flowing because degree getting in the way. martin himself, he did not believe in nature the goods and possessions. he gave every penny from the nobel prize of course. karen had some questions about that. she's got some precious children, but martin was like they. useful of that kind of commitment and that's rare but at least we can aspire to is having of reliving the age of the seller. we're to be successful at any cost on any means, just obsessed with 11th commit a thou shalt not get caught. think in black leaders these days. days. when you say the word integrity, who comes to mind? not a long list. we won't go into games. we are on television even the window. we can list the folk who don't fall into it. good god almighty. so you say to yourself, what is happening with we are not talking about perfection.
12:40 pm
when i see you i see a brother running the schaumburg institution was the respected people of all colors but a special black people and you earn a. it's not inheritance. you earn it. how do you earn it? day in day out tell the truth, but what does. not talking about the perfection of brother khalil. here's a brother who like james baldwin said i want to be an honest man to you know the last line i want to be an honest man and a writer. i want to be a decent man but i want to be person of integrity. your wife, your kids your great-grandfather all of them looking on you and saying, we see a brother who has five integrity. that's also what martin has in mind. if we can keep integrity and honesty and decency alive and allow the level of money chicanery, or mendacity ally in hiding and concealing, then we
12:41 pm
end up the best of that kind of culture to be and this is in the age of obama. it's sentimental folks giving good speeches but no fundamental commitment to action to so you get sentimental crocodile tears, sentimental orientation everybody nostalgic about the past. what you are doing now about the white poor too. vis-à-vis wall street, these are the military-industrial complex those catastrophes were talking a. ecological catastrophe, nuclear catastrophe, imperial catastrophe, militarism the drones over the israeli-palestinian struggle. the same is true in terms of the economic catastrophe. in the last six years, the top 1% of the population got 97% of the income growth. and we can't, we can't say
12:42 pm
publicly unless amount you are two critical black folk. we have had three problems. the first african off the boat dignified. too much death to. too much poverty, chronic. not enough self-love. we have black folks love this is, respect themselves can eliminate poverty and there are too many early deaths. some were inescapable disease. we could fight some disease. if we got all three of those man, we would have so many jobs, coltrane -- franklins and curtis mayfield and the emotions and the whispers, and that is a level of excellence. all of those folks, excellent man. >> host: i'm sure you're reminding me and the viewers on exactly what he meant by excellence in that speech. just a kind of what you think
12:43 pm
about the times we live in, and you referred to them as the age of obama, and they think ferguson. where they can together, interestingly, and where dr. king intercepts this vote is james comey, current director of the fbi, as he did at the risk of opening a new file on myself -- >> guest: that's a compliment a brother. we've both got big files to that's a compliment. we are trying to be true to what shape this, know what i mean? we just bear witness. go right ahead. >> host: so he gave a speech on february 12 before the law enforcement community of the fbi, and i think what surprised many people and certainly surprise the present others who analyzed the speech was that he mentioned dr. king and the file that j. edgar hoover opened up on him with bobby kennedy's approval for the march on
12:44 pm
washington speech in 1963. and he says, he keeps the approval, the order and approval on this desk as a reminder of the sordid history of the fbi as a way of remembering the stakes that the fbi has made in the past, and to hold up dr. king as an example of a real american hero who was victimized by his own government. now what's fascinating about that is, that generally speaking that is the way in which we in the story, right? triumph over the smallest of people of mind and heart in the moment. and yet the director goes on to talk about implicit bias amongst law enforcement officials not just in the fbi, read the coach. he talks of his own irish forebears were both members of law enforcement but also benefited from the whiteness despite racism in their times.
12:45 pm
and he talks about a need for engaging the african-american community on its historical understanding of police brutality, as well as white officers and a larger law enforcement committed to come to terms with its own biases. that's all there but here's the part that perfectly mixes the dr. king that we want to remember up with the dr. king who actually lived. so here in this part of the speech talking about the age of ferguson and obama says, the answer is of course hard truth. these are the hard truth that image. he says, if we are so that -- i'm sorry. yes, the truth is the truth is that what really needs fixing what really needs fixing, an important qualification that does not attach to the of the truth is something only if you like president obama are willing to speak about, perhaps because it is so daunting a task through
12:46 pm
to my brothers keeper initiative the president is addressing disproportionate challenges faced by young men of color. for instance data shows the percentage of men not working or not enrolled in school is newly twice as high for blacks as it is for whites. this initiative and others like it is about doing the hard work and to emphasize, to grow drug-resistant and violent resistant kids especially in communities of color so they never become a part of that officer's life experience. drug resistance and violence resistant kids. that's the real problem that the president is addressing. so in all of this it is superstructure of ideas about the history of the policing and this moment come essentially only the president issuing leadership on talking about the real issue of black inferiority. wasn't this exactly what dr. king talked about the arch of oppression, a key arch of oppression?
12:47 pm
so even for a man who i believe in his heart is saying the right thing, he believes he's in the right thing, he is certainly pushing the envelope on recognizing bias and racism and law enforcement, still articulates and retreats to the fundamental understanding of black people are broken into black people were not broken, we wouldn't have this problem. >> guest: so in other words, the damage is always on black people and not on a vicious system of injustice with decrepit schools that too often generate the soul murder a month for children, levels of unemployment and underemployment underemployment, indecent housing, still not enough available health care. given all of that social neglect and economic abandonment the problem is to put on the backs of these damaged people, on the least of these. but every empire from the beginning of time has told of
12:48 pm
those kinds of lies about pressures poor and working people. and martin is part of this not just black history not just american history, not just modern history, human history. going all the way back from the very beginning, having the courage to say people in power, no matter what color you are get your boot off the neck of poor people. i think we're too many folk when the federal was black and they don't want to say a word but the boot is still on. you see what i mean? when martin was around what was his relation to black politicians? well, we know. he was responsible in some way for the first black mayor. what did the first black mayor do? not allow him to be on the stage. because martin was too radical. he said i understand the need grows. i did out of love for the masses. these folk are scared because they want to be included in the mainstream establishment. what did he going to say? don't become part of the
12:49 pm
conspiracy against poor people as a black politician. and that's why we have to get our politicians of all colors accountable. >> host: one does wonder, as we move into the beginning stages of the 2016 presidential election, where we are likely to have a white president began. >> guest: it's going to be a vanilla president, no doubt about it. it might be clinton versus bush. >> host: assuming that it will be interesting, particularly if hillary clinton should win, to see the mental and verbal gymnastics that black people come up with in order to not criticize the now sitting first woman president if it happens to be hillary clinton around the issues that will no doubt still be front and center in terms of this country's history it will be fascinating guess the part of it is we've lost so much of our moral authority because we will not tell the truth. when black folk are in office we
12:50 pm
acted as if we wanted to protect them at any means. and, of course, we need to protect the city lies told by the right wing or fox news or whatever. but you lose your moral authority and what happens is you end up with your politicians becoming more and more centrist neoliberal, financial lies advertise, militarize, that's the new liberal response to problems. that's true for clinton or barack obama or the black congressional caucus or the democratic party for the most part. the republican party is mean-spirited conservatives, different thing. but if you let any moral authority if you don't bring critique to bear on the black politicians than nobody is going to listen to you. i think the sad thing is that black americans going to go into such a deep depression when the obama leaves the white house because it would mean then as he leaves the black suffering and misery is still a place an escalating. he's got a nice philanthropic
12:51 pm
program. not 1 penny from the government philanthropic program for the black brothers. the black system are catching hell too. but black folk will look around and say, what happened? out intellectuals went with them. why didn't you tell us the truth? all we want our position to always want to some lectures all we wanted so it's a. how come you didn't tell the truth? or is some truth telling but not a whole lot. christine is strong. so that there are folk who get caught because they know deep down third edition that produced them you can't be too to malcolm and martin and sammy and stokely and the others without taking the risk, but sacrificing your popularity for telling the
12:52 pm
truth. this is not about popularity. it's about integrity. that's what we love about martin but again he's not the only one. even though this book is about martin in a way it's about the people. it's about a tradition. and it is the greatest tradition in the modern world when it comes to a people who have had levels of hatred for 400 years and they dished out not black alpaca not like isis. they dished out martin king fannie lou hamer, curtis mayfield, stevie wonder these are love warriors of the highest level. that's what i'm blessed to be a small part of that tradition brother. when the worms are getting ongoing of a smile on my face. the road i'm going down with jesus, coltrane, curtis mayfield and martin. >> host: you mentioned and we are going to be closing shortly that the last sermon that dr.
12:53 pm
king was to deliver was titled what america may go to hell. now, of course, we know brother jeremiah wright -- >> guest: preaching the sermon that brother martin planned to preach. >> host: but let's not forget in the course of this conversation that we started with a man who was not only the subject of a national holiday, the man who for the right in this country represents the highest achievement of individualism that everyone should aspire to because he was an individual who wanted us to get to the place where we could be seen as individuals. and yet here i was before he breathed his last breath he was issuing an indictment on the nation. do you know what that sermon actually was going to be?
12:54 pm
do we have evidence of it anything transferred the great scholar james combs and taylor branch and lewis baldwin and others, they might have an idea. i don't know. i think the important thing to keep in mind, he didn't say america ought to go to hell. he said america should go to the. he said america may go to hell. why? because militarism racism poverty, mr. ellis him those for diseases their diseases there are historical practice at the same time. they are sucking the democratic energy out of america. america is on its way to fascism. big government, big banks big corporations no accountability. all the wealth hemorrhaged at the top and those at the bottom fighting over the crumbs.
12:55 pm
martin saw that. he was an honest in saying american may, in fact go to hell. and in many ways i think it vindicates my edit of other jeremiah wright. i think history will vindicate our brother. i don't agree with everything he said that he is a truth teller and he speaks his heart speaks his soul and mind. and then individually about the negro national anthem. we lift every voice but we have so many echoes out there. we've got too many copies to we don't have enough originals. when you're an original like martin, you speaker for the even when he was wrong. he was wrong in atlantic city. a compromise the establishment. fannie lou hamer critique she loves him, martin you're wrong. how can anybody criticize martin luther king, jr.? malcolm -- malcolm x called him a chill. you don't use children in birmingham like that. that's a debate. do you use children against
12:56 pm
gangsters and terrorists like the police department of birmingham? that's a dialogue. malcolm was honest about that. what was wonderful about it was of course when malcolm died, what did martin say? he had the sweet spirit. the most gentle, that's malcolm. martin could see malcolm's gentleness. that's why june 27, 1964 when malcolm here sir martin, i will go with you to the united nations to put the next it's on trial for the violation of human rights of black people, they almost came together. but martin new well malcolm called me a chunk. i didn't like it. i understand where the brother is coming from. he went too far by the love was coming through the language. he was loving the children and the children were being abused. >> host: so here we are on the 50th anniversary of bloody sunday that passed recently. in the lessons from his life in
12:57 pm
terms of the choices that he made, the spirit with which he believed in this nation and its capacity for the young people who really do have to carry these traditions forward? any final thoughts for them? >> guest: i think the final thoughts would be that commit oneself to the highest level of courage. don't be afraid, and tell the truth, bear witness. don't be afraid to be unpopular. be humble enough to learn from each other and others of all colors, but be bold enough to pierce through all the lies and the crimes being committed in the name of democracy. >> host: and know your history. >> guest: and know your history, keep the love flowing. in the end what i loved about
12:58 pm
martin is love is not at the center of it, all the rest of it is sounding brass and -- that's what kept us going. >> host: brother wes thank you so much. is having an amazing conversation. thank you for this book. i know that everyone will find it incredibly valuable and we will have some soul reckoning to do testing well, i salute you. thanks, c-span, always. absolutely. god bless you, my brother. >> that was "after words," booktv signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policymakers and others familiar with their material. "after words" arrows -- there's a week and a booktv at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9 p.m. on sunday, and 12 a.m. on monday. and you can also "after words"
12:59 pm
online. go to booktv.org and click on "after words" in the booktv series and topics list on the upper right side of the page. >> here's a look at some upcoming book fairs and festivals happening around the country. ..
1:00 pm

15 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on